By Katie Macdonald
Thinking of travelling to Argentina? Not sure what to expect? In the UK we seem to know very little about this country, especially in terms of safety and how welcoming they are to British travellers. I believe we have unfairly exaggerated a lot of our negative ideas about Argentina. My first day in Buenos Aires, I was in a car accident. I knew people who were mugged at gunpoint on their commute home. I should be, in theory, the first person to tell you how dangerous it is to live and travel in this country. But, I found after spending six months in Argentina that this a slight misconception that we Europeans have. I grew to love this beautiful, chaotic and passionate country so I am going to try to set the record straight on what is truth and what is myth.
Argentina is too dangerous! : MYTH
South America has certainly developed a reputation for danger, but Argentina is a different story. Only 9 countries behind the UK in the Global Peace Index, it’s not as dangerous as you might expect and is one of the safest regions in South America. Having said this, avoid walking home alone or using ATMs at night and take sensible precautions (as you would in any country) and you will still feel safer than you ever have in Selly Oak.
Argentinians dislike the British: MYTH
My original fear that Argentinians dislike the British turned out to be a myth. Argentinians are some of the warmest people – provided you catch them after their morning mate. They are obsessed with British culture and television – Doctor Who and Skins are surprisingly popular. I once introduced myself at a party and soon had an overly-enthralled crowd around me asking me to say, “Bloody hell Harry” and “I’m Hermione Granger!” amongst other things. Just don’t get them started on the Chileans…
They are still ‘sore’ about the Falklands War…: TRUTH
Be careful with this topic, and unless speaking with a very good friend tread lightly. The Falkland’s war, or the Guerra de las Malvinas as you should refer to it over there, is still a very current issue for Argentinians. Whilst I certainly don’t claim to be an expert, I would say that they seem to care about those islands a hell of a lot more than we do today, and certainly suffered a greater loss, losing twice as many men as the UK. However, as a young person they certainly respect that all this went down before we were even born so don’t think they’ll hold you personally responsible.
All they eat is steak: MYTH
Interestingly, the porteños in Buenos Aires think of themselves as honorary Europeans due to their cosmopolitan culture and colonial heritage. You’ll find plenty of places that offer milanesas, pasta, pizza, salads and of course homemade empanadas. Even though beef takes a very meaty role in their diet they balance it out with fruit and mate (a traditional infusion). An interesting foodie fact is that Argentine superstition leads to eating gnocchi on the 29th of every month, a tradition supposedly started by poor Italian immigrants as to eat frugally until payday.
“Isn’t it a musical, Don’t cry for me Argentina?”: TRUTH
Evita, the national sweetheart the film and musical is based on, was the wife of former political leader Juan Domingo Perón. A sort Argentinian Marilyn Monroe figure, Evita died 65 years ago but for many Argentinians she’s very much alive. Her tomb in Buenos Aires is inundated with fresh flowers every day, and Peronista or not, Eva Perón plays a huge part in Argentina’s history so yes, Argentina is still crying for her today.